What is Rosso di Montalcino wine?
Once called ‘Vermiglio’ (vermilion), Rosso di Montalcino is a dry, fruity red wine produced in the village of Montalcino in Tuscany. Rosso comes from the same area of origin as the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino, sharing the same Mediterranean climate and also based on 100% Sangiovese. However, Rosso di Montalcino is released sooner and is therefore more youthful than Brunello. Rosso di Montalcino has had its own DOC since 1983.
The Rosso di Montalcino style
Lighter and less extracted than Brunello, the best examples of Rosso di Montalcino are full of freshness and layered with spices. The minimum alcohol permitted is 12% abv but in warmer vintages it can easily reach 14.5%.
Given the Mediterranean climate, Rosso di Montalcino tends to have more moderate acidity compared to other Sangiovese wines from Tuscany such as Chianti, Chianti Classico, or even Rosso di Montepulciano, which explains its extraordinary drinkability. At the same time, it is often a bit more complex compared to Sangiovese from Maremma, just on the other side of the Orcia river.
The Montalcino area
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, Montalcino is an isolated hilltop village of austere, rural beauty with an intoxicating view over the surrounding valleys of Orcia, Ombrone and Asso. It lies up to 500 metres above sea level, 40 kilometres south of Siena and around 50km from the coast. It is sheltered to the southeast by the inactive volcano, Mount Amiata, one of the highest mountains in Tuscany.
The area where the wines of Montalcino are produced coincides with the historical borders of the Municipality of Montalcino, covering a surface area of 24,000 hectares, only 15% of which is planted with vineyards. The vineyards are the same for Rosso and Brunello, indeed Rosso is often a byproduct of Brunello. However there are 500 hectares where only Rosso is allowed – while all the grapes able to produce Brunello can be declassified to make Rosso, the reverse is not true.
‘The 500 hectares reserved only for Rosso,’ explains Michele Fontana, managing director of Consorzio di Montalcino, ‘are the result of an old tradition, preceding the establishment of the DOC. In the 1960s these vineyards were not allowed to produce Brunello, so despite being within the appellation, they could be used only for Rosso’.
Before the establishment of the DOC, Rosso di Montalcinio was produced most likely with other indigenous grapes such as Canaiolo and Colorino, simply because many vineyards were planted with several varieties.
At the beginning of the 21st century, it was proposed that international varieties should be introduced to the DOC but in the end the idea of 100% Sangiovese prevailed. The yield requirement is slightly higher than Brunello (a maximum of 80 q/ha instead of 70 q/ha) and the ageing requirement is a minimum of one year, with or without oak – much shorter than the four years required for Brunello.
Look out for Aldo’s in depth Rosso di Montalcino report and tasting notes, on Decanter Premium soon.